Saturday, 10 August 2013

Early August- The growing season is almost over, but the harvests not ready yet

It´s early August, and I have been busy not only gardening but also travelling and chatting with other people growing their own food.

Interactions with other people

In the past couple of weeks, I received two visits of people interested in Permaculture. The visits were readers of the forum. One was from a couple that is starting a farm in south Iceland and so I am very glad to see someone joining the movement of growing local food in Iceland. The other was a friendly guy from Alaska, growing food at Bethem, they have a similar climate to ours, though the summer is warmer than ours. They made extensive use of polytunnels and subterranean storage rooms. Here is their website 

During this time I also exchanged emails with people growing food near the Arctic Circle. One was Lone Sorensen, growing food at Nunavut The other was from a food chef grows salads at Svalbard, but indoors

In the next few weeks I will visit the projects of Plants for a Future and Martin's Crowford forest garden in southwest UK, and Seff Holzer Kramerterhof project, high in the Austrian Alps.

The experiment with 1 month food production outdoors in Iceland

Its still early to know whether the experiment worked or not.

The biomass in the garden has grown to its full extent. I had eaten the first few harvests of peas, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and kohlrabi. The broad beans are still forming pods, while the grain is heading but I am unsure whether it will ripen or not. The potatoes have lush foliage and I wonder how good they are beneath the soil surface. I am confident that with a good harvest of potatoes, beans and grains, my experiment with food production will be considered a success.

I sown a lot of overwintering wheat, rye and triticale, both in a bed prepared with cut lupins, compost and pumice, and in an extensive backyard area that has tilled soil without any preparation.

I have two siberian tomatoes ripening outdoors, but were transplanted in fruit setting. The ones that started flowering outdoors never set any fruit and probably never will. It was also a failure for the zucchini. While I had a nice crop of it in 2011 and 2012, this year the weather has been so cold that it is proving impossible even under a low tunnel.

I had a few frosts in June, July and August. And also cold northern winds for the past few days. The improvised windbreaks and plastic frames help, and raise the temperature by 2 to 5ºC but I am not sure whether they will survive the extreme winds of the upcoming winter.

The swedes and turnips are just forming their bulbs as most kohlrabi. The beets do not seem to be forming a bulb yet. The painted mountain corn was a failure: no harvest outdoors, not even flowering. Some perennials look very good: the walking onions, the good king henry, the chives, crambe and jerusalem artichokes.

The arugula, valerian salad, pack choy and coriander, are flowering and I hope to have it self-sown.

Indoors I cleaned everything because of the spider mites, I introduced predator mites and hose the plants left outdoors for a few days. Everything seems much better, but some indoor plants were slightly damaged by unexpected frost a few days ago. I think I will not have any crop of the millet, amaranth, lima beans, winged beans, groundnut, and other rare vegetables I was expecting to have. The summer is just finishing, and the daylight quickly decreasing.

However I still hope to harvest some oca and quinoa, now growing outdoors.

Testing nutrients in soil

I received a kit to test soil nutrients from ebay and I analysed the soil. I was surprised to see a neutral pH, high levels of potassium and phosphorus but depleted levels of nitrogen. It seems that the nitrogen is leached due to excessive rainfall but this loss is prevented by covering the ground with thick mulching, plastic or growing nitrogen fixing species. I will write a detailed post about this.

Finally we also got a kitten, and we did a natural pond to attract wildlife.

Overall, I now feel a feeling of letting things grow wild and nature follow its course; not creating too many expectations; and adapting myself to this hard climate.